Saturday, January 4, 2014

Doctor Who-The Tenth Planet

                     The doctor,Ben and Polly are taken into what turns out to be a Space Command Center on Earth's South Pole in the year 1986. Two astronauts on a routine mission to Earth's moon loose aboard the Zeus IV contact with the command center and,aboard Zeus IV the two man crew began to feel their bodies weakening physically. While viewing their monitoring devices,the doctor observes and takes down notes on a mysterious planet that the Command Center's leader General Cutler is just noticing-a planet with geography identical to Earth only with the polarity completely reversed. The doctor addresses this world to the paranoid,mistrustful General as Mondas-which he and his scientific adviser Doctor Barclay recognize as an old name for Earth. 

                     After explaining to the General and his crew that Mondas was once a twin planet to Earth,the doctor informs them they will be having visitors soon. While not trusting the doctors word,the General phones Geneva to send an international team to investigate the doctors claims. Not only has the news of this twin world gone international,but Geneva observes the same drain of energy. After losing contact with the investigation team,the beings who'd overwhelmed them enter the Command Center. They are cybernetic beings called Cybermen led by Krang. General Cutler's attempt to overpower them with his conventional weaponry fail as they explain their intention.

                     The planet Mondas once contained humanoid beings,whose scientists developed artificial body parts to extend the life of their planets inhabitants who were dying as the energy of the planet was beginning to weaken. In order to fascinate this,all emotion was bread out of their minds as a weakness to their increased physical dexterity. The Cybermen intend to use Mondas's orbit with Earth to drain its energy to restore their world. Literally having no sense of caring for the death of all life on Earth as a result of this,Krang insists that all human life will be saved if they all return to Mondas to survive in the same manner as the Cybermen do-survival being their only remaining objective.

                      Though allowing Cutler to make contact with Zeus IV,the ship crashes into Mondas and explodes-just before a fleet of Cybermen ships approach Earth in order to begin the energy transfer. The apparent weakened doctor meanwhile faints from the stress of the situation. This leaves Ben to deduce that the high heat lamp from a back room film projector shorts out the Cybermen's circuits. In an act of desperation, General Cutler decides to use the massive planet killing Z-Bomb to destroy Mondas before it destroys Earth,whose explosion would also have catastrophic consequences on Earth. Meanwhile Geneva makes the decision to send up Zeux V to intercept the Cybermen fleet-commanded by the General's son Terry

                         When Terry disappears in while trying to intercept the Cybermen fleet,Cutler becomes obsessed with using the Z-Bomb against Mondas no matter the consequences to humanity. As Polly assists as secretary to the General's crew,a worried Doctor Barclay helps Ben to locate a fail-safe device in the Z-Bomb that will prevent its activation. The doctor regains himself at this point-just as Cutler has discovered the Ben's sabotage. After threatening to kill both him,Polly and the doctor the head of a newly arrived cyber squad kill Cutler-insisting that the doctor and his two companions agree to dismantle the rocket carrying the Z-bomb. He agrees so long as the safety of Polly is guaranteed.

                         While aboard the Cybermen vessel,the doctor learns that the Cybermen plan to use the Z-bomb to destroy Earth. While working with Barclay and Cutler's former assistant Dyson he realizes the reason the Cybermen require humans to do this is due to a higher susceptibility in their part to radiation. So they realize the best action is to stall for time-using the radioactive power rods for the rocket against the Cybermen-causing them all to evaporate. They lose their control over Earth,and Mondas finally drains itself of energy and breaks apart by itself. With the Earth saved and the doctor and Polly rescued,the weakened doctor returns to the TARDIS where he collapses-transforming before Ben and Polly's eyes into a much younger man.

                              This tense and very claustrophobic thriller is based entirely around the concept of uncertainty. The doctor himself is absent from quite a lot of this story-the doctors failing physical body exactly mimicking that of Hartnell's and his reason for exiting Doctor Who at this point. Though the passionless Cybermen,in their historic introductory story for Doctor Who, have no feeling for the fate of anything they do,the psychologically unstable state of General Cutler almost inadvertently proves their point,at least for a minority of humans,that emotions can be a weakness if in the wrong hands-as they are in the General's case. For the most part it's Ben,the only companion Cutler fully trusts,that swings into action and shows quick witted perception in diagnosing the Cybermen's extreme sensitivity to heat and light radiation.

                              Of course the one thing this story will probably be most remembered for is the first regeneration of a doctor,at the time a last ditch necessity with Hartnell's advancing cerebrovascular disease to maintain the role. This of course has become part of Doctor Who itself-advancing and expanding in nature to this very day. Sometimes this story does show minor weaknesses-especially in the near doctor-less episode three with General Cutler,Doctor Barclay,Ben and Polly are forced to carry on without the shows defining title character. Though Ben and Polly succeed where the sometimes faceless supporting cast do not,its the unbalanced character of General Cutler who provides the most drama in this notable finale for William Hartell's first doctor and introduction to the concept of regeneration in the show. 
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